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Texas Derby to Decide LAFC’s Western Conference Final Opponent- Breakdown

The games in this year’s MLS season have dwindled down to a precious few, and by the end of Sunday’s conference semifinals, a 28-team journey that began almost eight months ago will be down to the final four. Three days removed from a thrilling playoff version of El Trafico between No. 1 seed LAFC and No. 4 seed LA Galaxy, it’s almost time for LAFC’s opponent to be determined. Sunday night, not everybody will be watching the NFL tilt between the Miami Dolphins and the Pittsburgh Steelers on NBC. Fans of the other kind of football will instead be turning to ESPN for the last of this year’s conference semifinals in MLS, and they’ll be treated to a Texas Derby.

Austin FC"s Sophomore Playoff Run Continues with Texas Derby Sunday Night

The final piece to the conference finals puzzle will be filled in when Austin"s Q2 Stadium plays host to arguably the most important soccer match it"s held since the venue first opened in the spring of 2021 on Sunday. No. 2 seed Austin FC, a second-year team which successfully disproved the notion of a sophomore slump this season, will play host to No. 3 seed FC Dallas, one of MLS" original 10 teams from the inaugural season in 1996.

Kickoff time of Sunday"s match is slated for 8:18 pm ET/ 5:18 pm PT, with pregame coverage beginning at 8 pm ET/ 5 pm PT on the Disney-owned cable network. At stake: An Oct. 30 trip to Banc of California Stadium to do battle against LAFC in the Western Conference Final. Kickoff times for next Sunday"s matches had yet to be determined at press time.

High Drama For Both Teams Heading into Sunday"s Semifinal

A universal storyline for the teams ahead of this weekend"s Texas Derby is that both Austin FC and FC Dallas went through a war in their respective knockout round matches. Not even extra time was enough for the Texas sides to advance to Sunday"s contest.

Both teams had to go to penalty kicks after the full time whistle sounded last Sunday afternoon and Monday evening in the Lone Star State, with the home teams emerging victorious on penalties.

Austin FC Found Itself Down 2-0

On the afternoon of Oct. 16, Austin FC played its first-ever match in the MLS Cup Playoffs as the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference bracket entertained No. 7 seed Real Salt Lake in the knockout round, but Austin was battle-tested right away last weekend.

In the third minute of play, RSL forward Sergio Cordova took the life out of Q2 Stadium by converting on a cross from defender Andrew Brody to give the road team a 1-0 lead right out of the gate. Cordova wasn"t done scoring from there.

Just 12 minutes later, Cordova finished off his brace after Austin FC midfielder Johjan Valencia was whistled for a handball, giving up a penalty, making Real Salt Lake"s lead 2-0. As fate would have it, penalties would become the order of the day.

Driussi Nets Brace of His Own

Austin FC"s mantra on the day was “bend, but don"t break." During the 31st minute of play, Austin forward Sebastian Driussi netted his first of the afternoon off of a cross from Diego Fagundez to make the game 2-1, leveling the game up in the fourth minute of second half stoppage time on a penalty.

Upon a scoreless 30 minutes of extra time, Austin FC converted on three straight penalties to advance to this Sunday"s conference semifinal.

Look for Sebastian Driussi to be an impact player for Austin FC in this Texas Derby on Sunday night. It make sense for Driussi to be a player to watch out for in this match. During the regular season, he scored 22 goals in league play, so if he finds an opening, there"s a good chance he"s putting the biscuit in the basket.

FC Dallas Had To Go to Penalties Themselves

Much like Austin FC had to do last Sunday afternoon, FC Dallas needed to eke out a victory on penalty kicks versus Minnesota United on Monday evening. This match was also a dramatic affair.

Monday"s first half was a scoreless affair, with Minnesota defender Emanuel Reynoso opening the scoring with a 54th-minute tally off of a pass from Bongokuhle Hlongwane, but the Loons" lead was a short one. During the 64th minute, FC Dallas stormed back to level the match at 1-1 thanks to a headed shot on goal off of a corner kick from defender Jose Antonio Martinez.

Extra time produced no goals and again, penalty kicks were the deciding factor. Austin FC took FC Dallas to the fifth round of the penalty shootout, but Austin converted five consecutive penalties to advance to Sunday"s Texas Derby. If FC Dallas is to win this game on Sunday, it will be won on the defensive side of the ball.

Maarten Paes the Key to FC Dallas" Success

Goalkeeper Maarten Paes will have to step up and become FC Dallas" impact player on Sunday night in the Texas Derby. Initially joining North Texas" MLS side on a temporary loan before the start of the regular season, Dallas made the move permanent during the summer.

He"ll remain under the team"s control through at least the end of the 2025 MLS season, and FC Dallas could elect to pick up his vesting options for 2026 and 2027. This has proven to be a decent move for the team thus far.

He"s started all 34 of Dallas" league matches out of his 36 total appearances, stopping 94 opposing shots from the field of play, including two saves last Monday night, making for a 70 percent save rate. If Paes is challenged by Driussi, he"ll need to be one step ahead of him on Sunday.

Austin FC Coming in on Troubling Form

Even though Austin FC comes into this version of the Texas Derby as the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference bracket, their recent form is cause for concern. Counting regular season matches, Austin has posted a 2-2-1 mark in the last five contests.

Keep in mind that this is the same Austin FC that got behind the 8-ball last Sunday against RSL. If Austin finds itself in a trailing position again, the team"s luck might very well run out for good in the 2022 season.

FC Dallas in Great Form

In the other corner, FC Dallas comes into Sunday night"s semifinal on great form, having posted a 3-1-1 mark over the past five games across all competitions. Prior to the playoff run, Dallas bested Sporting Kansas City, 2-1 on Decision Day two weeks ago.

If Dallas" hot form continues into the Texas Derby on Sunday night, the No. 3 seed could spring the upset of the playoffs so far. Tune in and see what happens.

Final Thoughts

As El Trafico showed on Thursday night, anything can happen in the MLS Cup Playoffs. It"s rare that two rivalry games happen in succession in the playoffs, so the Texas Derby will be a real treat headed our way on Sunday night, and since it"s a week away from Halloween, a treat is most apropos this time of year.

By the time the Texas Derby kicks off, three out of the final four teams in the playoffs will be set. Who gets the last ticket to the dance?

Main image credit Embed from Getty Images

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